airLab is a summer workshop that will collect data on indoor air quality in several residential buildings in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Indoor air quality is an issue throughout many neighborhoods in Chicago and especially in Humboldt Park, where childhood asthma rates are some of the highest in the city. The Sinai Improving Community Health Survey has found that as many as 1 in 3 children in Humboldt Park may have asthma which far exceeds the city average of 13%.

To address these environmental concerns, Landon Bone Baker Architects and Bickerdike Redevelopment have partnered to facilitate airLab to develop youth resident green leaders to study indoor air quality (IAQ) at Rosa Parks Apartments and educate other residents on its impacts on their daily lives. airLab is partially funded through an Enterprise Green Resident Engagement grant and Chicago Public Schools’ 2011 Youth Ready Chicago.

In 2010, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, which was founded in 1967 by local residents and institutions to address a housing crisis in Humboldt Park, completed Rosa Parks Apartments, a comprehensively green residential development. The largest building in the development has been certified as LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Gold. Bickerdike is using Rosa Parks Apartments as a basis for an organization-wide strategy for greening. Landon Bone Baker Architects, the Architects for Rosa Parks Apartments, has remained actively engaged in the ongoing sustainability activities. Bickerdike and LBBA strive to work together to share information to close the feedback loop on the performance of the buildings and their impact on the environment and the quality of life for residents.

airLab will be a 6-week long summer program with two Bickerdike youth interns and two Newhouse Interns. The Newhouse Architecture Competition is an annual competition and exhibition of work by Chicago public high school students that is judged by professional architects, designers, planners and philanthropists resulting in not only an exhibit of the work but internship opportunities for the winners. The program will consist of 24 hours a week for the youth interns. Each day, participants will be based at LBBA where they work side by side with architects. Participants will work in teams to travel to Rosa Parks Apartments to do assessments and gather data. Participants then return to LBBA to synthesize and analyze their data, put the data into visualizations, conduct further research, and design measurement tools. airLab will also employ college-level designer interns, including a returning Youth Mentor from last year’s successful ShadeLab program.

Some of the goals of airLab will include:

  • Develop youth resident green leaders at Rosa Parks Apartments.
  • Expose youth resident green leaders to innovative sustainability initiatives in Chicago and opportunities for future education and/or employment in the sustainability field.
  • Survey a sample of Rosa Parks Apartments residents for their feedback on Bickerdike’s green education manuals and activities to date, including selected Enterprise Toolkit resources.
  • Survey a sample of Rosa Parks Apartments residents on their “green lifestyle” choices and habits, with a focus on IAQ issues.
  • Investigate & quantify the IAQ of recently constructed residential buildings at Rosa Parks Apartments, installing and monitoring sensors. Compare the indoor air quality of 541 N. Homan, a recently certified LEED apartment building with that of 3341 W. Ohio, a non-LEED certified building.
  • Track and compare IAQ information with outdoor air information (as a control).
  • Create an Indoor Air Quality Profile and Management Plan to address any IAQ complaints and problems, documenting lessons learned for architects and building owners/operators (feedback loop)
  • Produce an IAQ fact sheet, explaining what IAQ is and why it is important to the residents, with simple tips for improving IAQ.
  • Host an event for all Rosa Parks Apartments residents to present findings and disseminate the information in an engaging manner.